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RIPTA Agrees to Reduce Bus Pollution by 90 Percent in Enforcement Case Settlement

Release Date: 10/10/2002
Contact Information: Peyton Fleming, EPA Press Office (617-918-1008)

BOSTON - The RI Public Transit Authority has agreed to pay a $75,000 penalty and make changes to its bus fleet that will reduce air pollutant emissions by 90 percent to resolve claims by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that it violated federal water, air and hazardous waste laws at its bus maintenance/repair facility in Providence.

The agreement stems from EPA inspections in 1999 that showed numerous violations of hazardous waste management laws, as well the Clean Water Act and the Clean Air Act. The inspections took place at 265 Melrose St.

In addition to paying the penalty, RIPTA has agreed to operate its entire diesel-powered fleet on ultra-low sulfur fuel, reducing diesel particulate (soot) emissions by about 20 percent. The agreement requires RIPTA to use this fuel until 2006, at which time federal regulation will require all highway diesel fuel to be ultra-low sulfur fuel containing less than 15 parts per million.

RIPTA also agreed to install diesel particulate filters on all 156 of its diesel-fueled buses, further reducing diesel particulate emissions by about 70 percent for a total reduction of 90 percent. RIPTA has agreed to finish installing the filters by July 2006. The U.S. Department of Transportation has agreed to fund 80 percent of the $1.2 million cost of this retrofit project.

According to the 1999 inspections, RIPTA was not making required hazardous waste assessments on many of its waste streams and had even been throwing some of its hazardous waste in the trash, including cans containing solvents and contaminated rags. EPA inspectors also found that RIPTA failed to properly label and date waste containers, manage hazardous waste to minimize the potential for release, and ship hazardous waste off site within 90 days as required.

RIPTA violated the Clean Water Act by failing to have an adequate oil spill prevention plan and violated the Clean Air Act by failing to retrofit 20 of its pre-1994 buses with required catalytic converters designed to reduce diesel emissions by 25 percent. This retrofit was required under the Urban Bus Retrofit Rule when the transit authority rebuilt the engines on those buses.

“This summer’s poor air quality is an unfortunate reminder that air pollution still persists in New England and that we must be diligent in ensuring compliance with our environmental laws,” said Robert W. Varney, regional administrator of EPA’s New England Office. “Today’s agreement with RIPTA is a significant step in the right direction. The use of cleaner fuels and cleaner buses in RIPTA’s fleet will contribute greatly to improving Rhode Island’s air quality.”

In September, EPA completed the Health Assessment Document for Diesel Engine Exhaust. The assessment concludes that short-term exposure to diesel exhaust can cause lung irritation and other inflammatory symptoms and that long-term exposure is likely to pose a lung cancer hazard to humans as well as other forms of lung damage.